Out of Office Reply: How to Enjoy a Stress-Free Vacation

It can be viewed as a positive that technology allows us to stay connected with the office and work colleagues when we are on the road but if you are trying to switch off and take a break for a few days that level of availability could soon stress you out.

Here are some tips and ideas on how to manage a stress-free vacation and unplug from the usual lines of communication, including how to prepare for some downtime, how to cope with tech temptation, plus a solution to help you truly switch off.

Advance notice

One of the best ways of ensuring that your emails and voicemail don’t start stacking up is to give plenty of notice to work colleagues and contacts that you are taking a break from work.

If you can notify everyone relevant that you are going to be out of the office and on vacation at least a couple of weeks before you head for the airport and the beach, that gives everyone time to prepare and expect your absence for a period of time.

Not only is it a good business courtesy to give advance notice of your intended vacation it should help to ensure that you don’t get anything like the usual volume of contact and correspondence.

Disconnection discipline

Venues like the Greenbelt Marriott Hotel Maryland are geared up to provide the sort of services you expect as a business traveler such as Wi-Fi access, but when you are trying to take a vacation rather than work, it can be a tempting dilemma.

If you use your smartphone and tablet as part of your private life via social media it means that you are unlikely to want to leave your tech at home, but that raises the temptation to check on your work while you are online.

Consider setting up vacation messages on your business email accounts and setup call-divert so that colleagues can field messages on your behalf while you are away.

Drawing the line between work and play can be a challenge but if you are going to properly relax on vacation and take a break it will involve a disciplined approach to going online.

Going off-grid

A good way of truly getting away from it all and removing yourself from the usual work distractions is to plan some travel where you put yourself out of cell range.

Giving yourself a digital detox by going off-grid can work wonders in terms of giving you time to clear your mind and recharge your own batteries when your regular tech tools are rendered inoperative.

Aim to delegate tasks and defer projects that can wait until you get back to work so that you don’t stress out unduly about not being reachable for a few days.

In order to achieve a good level of business performance throughout the year, it is essential that you make the most of your opportunity to unplug and unwind on your vacation so that you are physically and mentally fit and ready when you get back.

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Staying Motivated When You’re All Alone

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There are two sides to every coin. That is a fact. So while working from home has an abundance of benefits that always accompany it to the ball (either you’re either your own boss or you get to avoid your actual boss!) there are some downsides too, most notably trying to stay motivated.

It is one nasty double-edged sword. All of your responsibilities rely on you staying motivated but because you work from home staying motivated is like trying to get out of bed in the mornings – almost impossible at times.

In fact, a lot of work-from-homers find they stop striving to take their work or business to the next level and become content with what they are earning now.

If this is you. If you find your flow stops every so often, or you start slacking now and then and taking extended lunch breaks to scroll through Facebook, then read on because we have some tips that can help you stay motivated.

Short-Term Goals Only
Long-term goals rarely work for the simple fact they seem so unattainable. WIt is like the whole climate change thing. We all know that we need to do more but because it seems so unattainable we don’t do enough. But if we all started eating locally sourced food or taking shorter showers we would get there. The same goes for your goals. Keep them small and you will get there. Start with something small, like trying to earn an extra $75 a week, and then revel in all that extra cash you are making each month and push it again.

Get Inspired Again
We live in a day and age that is totally dominated by the Internet. But while this is a huge source of your procrastination problem, it can also be used for good too. You could use it to partake in MBA online accredited programs that teach you how to be a more effective business leader. You could set aside half an hour every morning to watch a TED Talk and get inspired by people that can help you improve. You could join a forum that is designed to help people that work from home. All of these will give you that kick up the rump you may need.

Look At Your Vision
There is a lot to be said for a vision board. It could be that you wallpaper the wall in front of your desk or just hang a pinboard to the right of where you sit. So long as you have a place where all your wants and dreams can be seen on a daily basis it doesn’t matter. It could be a house, a car, places you want to visit, a particular client that you want to land. By having something that constantly reminds you of why you are doing what you do you will find your motivation levels spike. You will have a reminder of everything you can achieve if you stop procrastinating and keep working hard.

One thing that is worth noting is the importance of a break too. If the creative juices aren’t flowing, don’t force them. That’s as important to your motivation as anything else.

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Put Yourself First: 10 Self Care Tips

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There is no denying the reality that, sometimes, life can just get a little too much for us to handle. It’s in times like these when we’re running low on energy and patience, that you need to learn to put yourself first and take care of yourself. If life is getting on top of you, and you don’t know what to do, read some of the tips below.

1. Binge Your Favourite Shows
With the weather quickly getting colder, and the nights drawing in faster, there is nothing more comforting than cuddling up on the sofa and binge-watching your favourite tv show. Since season seven has just finished, you may be wondering is GOT on Netflix? Find out now at netflixupdate.com.

2. Have A Glass Of Wine
Nothing accompanies a Netflix series better than a glass of your favourite wine. Just be sure that you don’t start using alcohol as a crutch to cope with life.

3. Get Some Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can have a lot of negative effects on the body, so be sure that you’re getting eight hours a night.

4. Write It Out
Whether you’re expressing your innermost thoughts in a diary, writing short murder mystery stories, or whole fantasy novels, writing is incredibly therapeutic.

5. Draw Instead
Sometimes it can be hard to express how you feel in words; In these times, it may be a lot easier to use art as means of expression instead.

6. Listen To Music
Music has the power to radically change our mood. Pop on some cheesy 2000’s pop and have a dance around the living room; I promise you won’t regret it.

7. Exercise
Whether you’re dancing around the living room, or hiking up mountains, exercise is great for us for a number of reasons, including reducing feelings of depression and anxiety. Click here for more benefits of exercise.

8. Meditate
Life is undeniably stressful, but luckily for you, meditation is a great way of reducing stress, and it only takes a few minutes each day.

9. Eat Your Favourite Foods
Like when you exercise, when you eat your favourite foods, endorphins are released, which help to reduce stress, reduce pain, and trigger positive feelings in the body. I guess this means that there are no excuses for you not to eat your favourite chocolate bar.

10. Get Some Help
If at any time you think you are struggling to cope with life, it’s always the most sensible idea to go and speak to someone about your problems, whether this is with a family member, friend, counsellor, or a doctor. It might not be easy at first, but it’s never a good idea to keep your feelings bottled up.

If you’re having a hard time coping with life at the moment, I hope that one of these tips or methods can help you out. Remember, that at times like this, you need to learn to put yourself first, and making look after you your top priority.

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Find Your Flow To Stop Profits Plunging

How much work really gets done in your business? Before you answer, it’s worth noting that the amount of work that gets done isn’t the same as the amount of work that you and your team do. The productivity of the team depends very much on the efficiency of the work they’re doing. It’s called the workflow, and when it’s smooth, you get a high return on results for the time put in. When it’s blocked and redirected and slowed, you can work as hard as you can and still get very little done. Here, we’re going to investigate some of the many causes of workflow issues in the business and what you do about them.

plunge
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Busy with busywork

Busywork is one of the worst enemies of a business. Especially when you’re first starting out, feeling your day dragged down by monotonous, low value, but essential tasks can feel like you’re a hamster in a wheel. HR, bookkeeping, and schedule arranging are just some examples of this productivity-sapping busywork. With a little time and investment, however, you can find lots of ways to get around your busywork. For instance, you can use software to automate as much of it as possible. Or you can outsource it to a virtual assistant. Or even delegate it to other members of the team, providing it has some value to them such as training them in a new skill. Whatever method you use to clear busywork off your desk, you can focus on the work that will actually make you money.

Time well spent

Another way to get a better balance between the kinds of work you do is to better schedule it. Plan out your days. Many of us have a ‘to-do’ list, but we also need a ‘to-don’t’ list. This is a way of prioritizing your work. Sort them by which are the most time-sensitive and which are the most important. Whatever tasks fit those categories the least, those go on the ‘to-don’t’ list for the day. When you know what work you have, you should also use batch arranging. When you switch from one process to the next, productivity takes a hit while your brain switches gears. Make those gear switches as few and far between. If, for instance, you have two tasks for the day that require the use of spreadsheet software, do one immediately after other, instead of doing them on either end of a task that requires you to make phone calls. Above all else, start by making a schedule and dictating how much time you can spend on a task at an absolute maximum. That way you make sure you have a reasonable expectation that you can get everything on the agenda done for the day.

Where’s it all going?

Another way to prioritize your work is to figure out where it’s all going. The best way to do that is to set your goals in advance. Short-term, medium-term and long-term goals are all important. Which goals does that task fit? If it’s non-essential and it doesn’t contribute to any of your current goals, rethink whether it needs to be done now or if it can wait.

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Get them in on it

Of course, the tips above also apply to members of your team. But beyond helping to organize their workday, ensuring that they’re motivated to tackle the work provided will be a big help. Unmotivated workers are more easily distracted and generally a lot less engaged and productive with their work. Make sure the right person is matched to the right job based on their skills, that they know their goals and how they align with the team’s and consider incentivizing good results. For instance, let them know that the path to further training and skills lies in achieving what you’ve set for them now.

Processing the process

Even if they’re engaged with the work, your team might not always be doing it in the most productive way. This is an issue especially with businesses where every member has their expertise and is relied on exclusively to handle it. When a business relies on individual knowledge, it leaves itself open to the risk they may be absent or leave and take the ‘key to the castle’, so to speak, with them. Avoid that, and make sure any replacements or stand-ins they have are using the best methods. The way to do that is to systemize all the most common and important processes in the business. This means not only discovering the most effective methods of tackling a process but documenting them so that any new recruits or replacements can more quickly learn the most efficient methods. Of course, if someone has an idea that they think is better than the proposed systemized route, give them a chance to try it out. But don’t force every new challenger to the task to think up the process from scratch.

The danger of distraction

Distraction isn’t always down to a worker who isn’t motivated enough to concentrate on the work. Think about the top sources of distraction in the office. If they spend too much time on social media or irrelevant internet sites, consider restricting certain sites on their devices within certain times. If they can’t concentrate due to noise, think about their physical work environment and whether rearranging them or getting them new furniture can provide a little more quiet for them.

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Picture sourced by Petr Kratochvil

Communication conundrums

Effective internal communication is the cornerstone of any business. Employees need to be able to understand and acquire the information they need to do their jobs in short order. For that reason, seriously consider how you communicate. What’s the most effective way to share a certain kind of information? For instance, a response to a query might be best answered in email. Unless it’s a more detailed conversation in which case a face-to-face and hands-on teaching may result in a quicker understanding. Or unless it’s information they should always have access to, in which you can make it ‘sticky’, either by hosting it on a shared server everyone has access to or by printing handouts and passing them around. Depending on the information that needs to be delivered, different methods to sharing it can be the difference between quick, clear communication and a business full of uncertainties and errors.

It’s not fun without funding

There are few greater disruptions to your workflow than not having the money you need to keep the business running. There are, of course, the very real risks that you can no longer afford members of the team you need or to keep the lights on in the office. Before then, however, lacking funding could mean you lack access to maintenance or repairs that keep your IT running or you lack the money to lease equipment you need for a certain job. A business owner should always keep in mind the potential sources of funding available to them to smooth out any potential cashflow road bump that could turn into a productivity pothole.

Paying for your problems

Then there are those costs that are much less expected. The problems are the same, if you don’t have a healthy cash flow, you won’t have an efficient business. However, the causes are a lot more direct. If you have to go out of pocket for repairs to a piece of equipment damaged by fire or natural disaster or stolen from the office, you simply might not be able to afford it. This is why every business owner needs to find commercial insurance information about which risks are most likely to hit their business. If you don’t protect your assets in advance, work will grind to a halt as you attempt to find funding for them later.

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Waiting on your money

Sticking with the link between money and productivity, there are few things more frustrating than slowing your pace because you’re waiting on money that should be with you right now. This is most common for businesses that use credit arrangements or invoices instead of straight cash transactions. With credit, it’s all about being thorough with who you let use credit and running checks to get as best an estimate as possible that they will pay reliably. With invoices, you can use factoring to get advances on the money you’re owed, but the best long-term solution is to set transparent payment terms, including dates, so you’re never kept waiting on money to the point it affects your scheduled cash flow projections.

You’re just not big enough

It’s a problem all businesses have. You don’t have the manpower or the skill supply to take on absolutely everything you need. In time, you should focus on growing to the point where you do. For now, however, it’s a good idea to get acquainted with the market of relevant outsourced service providers. It’s less cost-effective in the long run, but it’s a lot less risky than trying to hire someone you don’t necessarily have the funds to support.

Follow the tips above and the next time you’re asked how much work gets done in the business, you can offer the same answer as the amount of work you actually do.

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Safety First: How to Protect Your Small Business

When you run a small business, whether as a home-based sole trader or managing a small team, what could be minor problems for a huge corporation could literally be the end of your enterprise. As a small business owner, it can often seem like you are taking one step forward and two back as you attempt to navigate your way through all of the problems and issues that face a business today. You need to think about financial forecasts and business plans, how the economy could affect you, marketing, sales, customer service, website development, product or service quality and much more. One area you can’t afford to neglect is safety. Failing to protect your business adequately could see all of your time, effort and hard work come to nothing. Here is what you need to do to make sure your small business is safe and protected from threats.

Insurance

insurance
Insurance may seem expensive but it could save you a fortune. Source

The insurance you need will largely depend on what kind of business you are involved in. Some options include small business insurance, liability insurance, and extended home insurance if you plan to work there. People have a habit of putting off coverage, or only getting the absolute minimum to cut costs. But, this can be much more expensive if there’s a problem later.

Keep It Legal

Legislation and licensing also depend on your business field. But, it’s a legal requirement to get everything you need. If you work with food, you’ll need health and safety and food hygiene certificates for your place of work. If you sell to the public, you may need a sales license. Find out what you need, and give yourself plenty of time to sort everything out before you open your doors for the first time. It can take up to 12 weeks.

Back It Up

As a small business owner or sole trader, one of the worst things that can happen is losing your files and documents. Protect yourself by backing everything up. Here, Casey Explains Exactly How To Back Up Your iPhone and you should also make sure everything is saved to the cloud or on an external hard drive.

Think Cybersecurity

cyber-security
Being safe online is essential. Source

Cybersecurity is one of the biggest threats to both small and large businesses today. It’s one you cannot afford to ignore. Adequate cybersecurity can ensure your business is safe, both now and in the future. Just make sure you update your security systems regularly.

Trust Your Staff

One way to ensure your business is safe is by hiring the most trustworthy staff. These are the people you are going to trust to look after your business, help it to grow and spot any issues that could pose threats. Make sure you’ve got a thorough recruitment process and that their training is comprehensive.

Building Safety

Consider installing security cameras and other security cameras to keep your business premises safe.

Safety and protection might seem like another thing to add to what is sure to be a massive to-do list already. But, it’s one thing that you absolutely cannot afford to get wrong.

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